Darkness has fallen and, for Median Richard Weignright, the horrors he thought were over have only just begun. As an age old caste awakens Richard alone holds the key to the salvation of mankind…Or its destruction. Now, only his prodigy, Michael, can decide the fate of everything and learn what it truly means to be a Median; The risks involved and the inevitable sacrifices.
The street laid dry and the air still with every breath taken of it like ice. A fine fog slowly drifted from a nearby vent, lit up by the absent minded amber glow of an overhead streetlight. In the far distance the roar of the motorway was soothed into the ether, now but an echo on the light breeze hushing through the allies. A footstep on the embedded cobbles broke the gentle silence, followed by another as they came to an abrupt stop. The warm mist swept around a figure standing just inside a large arch leading into a back alley criss-crossed with rusted gantries and assorted telephone cables. Richard finally took another step forward, out of the mist and into the dank gloom of the grubby alley. He looked down the shadowy walkway cautiously, seemingly waiting for something. Suddenly there was a clatter and he started forward turning sharply towards a pile of rubbish in front of several trash cans. He waited for a few seconds and began to edge along the wall closest to him until they clattered again and he froze. With a sharp jump a small black cat emerged from behind one of the cans with a final clatter and rushed off past Richard with a low chirp making him relax. He backed away from the alleyway casually and continued off down the street.
High up in the gantry something looked down at where Richard had stood, watching curiously, then with a silent, almost unnoticeable movement it fled off into the cold winter night.
The low tones of distant civilisation forever carried on, softened into the dull drone that everyone had become accustomed to over the years. Against that silent din, the only noticeable sound was that of Richards’s soft footsteps on the brick pavement. He contemplated just how empty it all was now, part of him missing the single thing that had been there for his whole life. The whispers in the wind that grabbed at his senses and guided him to the lowly souls he was ultimately born to help and yet as a first in all that time he felt deeply content with what he was.
He continued to walk for some time, through the cold New Year air until he eventually reached his house, still with an age far beyond its years. In the drive, beside his own, was parked Hollies small car which made him smile lightly before proceeding towards the door. As he turned the latch and stepped inside he was confronted by Hollie, grimacing slightly. “Again?”
“It’s what I do,” replied Richard easily, placing his jacket carefully on the coat rack.
“It’s what I do as well, now, you have to remember,” she put a hand on her hip and cocked her head slightly. “You don’t see me obsessing about it.”
Richard walked into the front lounge, followed by Hollie, and slumped down into his armchair with a slight sigh. “I’m not obsessing, I’m just being thorough.”
“We haven’t heard hide nor hair of anything for months now.”
“That’s what concerns me, this quiet isn’t going to last forever and I don’t want us to be caught off guard…” He got up and took a step towards Hollie, placing a hand softly on her arm, “any of us.”
“I can’t win with you can I?” She placed her arms around his shoulders and kissed him tenderly. “Just try and ease up on it a bit otherwise you’ll burn yourself out for nothing.”
“Trust me…” A voice came from the doorway, followed by Michael wandering in and falling harshly onto the sofa along the wall, “this is nothing compared to what he used to be like.”
She chuckled slightly and looked at Michael sideways. “You mean he could be worse?”
“Alright, that’s enough of that,” Richard put his arms up and moved to lean on the mantelpiece, “how about we forget all that for now and go out for a nice meal?”
“I would,” stated Michael after Hollie nodded quickly, smiling widely, “but I’ve got some things to see to.” He got up and grabbed his coat from the back of the desk chair, slipping it on quickly, “So I’ll just leave you two love birds to your lonesome.” He sniggered and walked out hurriedly, the front door slamming behind him.
“So how about that meal?” asked Hollie, moving towards Richard again, smiling brightly.
Michael hurried along the dark streets for some time, occasionally passed by a boy racer or late worker finally on their way home for the night. In the night hung a strange sense of anticipation, as if the ether were waiting for something. It drifted in and out of the empty buildings, through the dank alleyways and made even the busiest streets, with bright fluorescent light wastefully spilling from shop windows onto the concrete, seem almost desolate. He continued on, trying to shrug off the feeling, until he came to a small door, having once been a colour resembling blue but now covered with graffiti. Just to the side was a faded and grimy copper plaque with several barely discernable words on it ‘ENTER NOT THOSE WHO WOULD NOT SEE’. Hardly even glancing at it Michael proceeded to hammer on the door several times, his fist clenched, producing a hollow metallic sound that permeated into the bricks it was bolted into, shaking a small cloud of dust clear. After a short pause the door was opened barely an inch and a curious glowing eye appeared at the crack. “What do you want?” stated a raspy Jamaican voice looking Michael up and down, “Median…”
“Just a drink,” he replied, “I don’t want any trouble.”
The door was opened slightly more to allow Michael in before being slammed shut and a large deadbolt being slid across. “That’s what they all say but there have been…Incidents in the past.”
“You really need to work on your people skills,” said Michael softly walking down a darkened corridor into the rest of the building. He emerged into a large lavishly decorated room with multi-coloured and strobe lighting illuminating different portions and a heavy baseline throbbing through the air. Scattered around the room on wine coloured velvet sofas were groups of what could only be accurately defined as ‘people’. Some had distant gazes, apparently staring at something that wasn’t there, occasionally stating something as though replying to someone; some had glowing eyes like the doorman and were engaging in indiscrete sexual acts while the rest of the group watched and others simply sat alone, looking shifty and seemingly talking to themselves. Some were even translucent, drifting around the place with no real sense of where they truly were. Michael pressed through a crowd of loosely dancing people towards a neon bar as they casually swayed in the flickering light as the beat thumped through the dance floor viscerally. He eventually managed to fall at the bar clumsily making two leather clad women with spiked neck braces look to him disapprovingly.
“Smooth, kid,” stated the Barman casually, “a knock out with the cats I see.”
Michael nodded sarcastically, squinted accusingly. “New doorman, anyway?” he adjusted his footing and managed to take a seat on one of the chrome bar stools. “What’s with his eyes?”
“He’s a Vesper…” The bartender looked at Michael steadily for a second or two to try and gauge if he had any idea what he was talking about and soon decided he didn’t. “It means ‘evening’, less of a cliché on the whole ‘Children of the night’ thing.” He casually pointed to a small group of Vespers on the dance floor slowly grinding their bodies on one another. “They’re special…Their very being repels the other side. It doesn’t want them and they don’t want it. As a result they’re sort of-” He watched the small group again for a moment, “outgoing…”
“They’re immortals?” stated Michael simply.
The Barman grinned and nodded quickly. “You got it, kid. Immortal…Every last one of the lucky bastards. Make up the regulars around here, only just coming back now. Most of them did the shuffle when your mate Weignright had that little scuffle with the other side,” he anticipated Michael’s reaction and raised his hand stopping him, open mouthed, “and yes, I know about that…There ain’t one among us who don’t. Go doing shit like that people are going to notice.”
Michael sighed gently lowering his head to the bar then raising it again quickly after a moment or two. “Trance been in?”
He laughed shortly and placed his hand on Michaels shoulder. “Women like that…They don’t stick around for long,” he patted his shoulder and turned around, picking up a cloth, “forget her, move on.”
Michael sighed again and was about to lower his head again as a pair of hands were placed on his arms from behind and run around across his chest.
“Sometimes they don’t,” came a soft feminine voice which still had a commanding, abrasive quality to it, “and I’m not just any woman,” she finished, taking a stool to his side. She was thin with fairly pale skin but long jet black hair which flowed down her back as she moved. Michael couldn’t help but stare at her tight deep blue jeans as she sat, moving up to a short leather jacket covering over a black halter neck top. “Like what you see?” she asked playfully as a deep red drink, softened only by a single ice cube floating at the surface, was placed firmly in front of her.
“Same thing every time,” said Michael casually, washing over her last comment, “are you ever going to tell me what you drink?” he asked as she raised the glass to her lips.
“Hmm,” she said, lowering the glass and gesturing a finger for him to move closer which he complied with great loyalty, “it’s blood,” she whispered in his ear making him pull back, startled as she smiled at him.
“Sure,” he replied sarcastically as she continued to smile sweetly at him.
The hours began to pass with various forms of person entering and leaving the bar in various different ways but all along Michael and Trance remained, talking casually and occasionally exchanging suggestive gestures to each other until she abruptly got up from her stool and looked around. “I have to go,” she said shortly.
Michael followed her lead and rose from is stool, glancing around the room with slight concern. The place was all but empty now with only a few stragglers lounging around on the side sofas. “Well, er…” stuttered Michael for a second, “when can I see you next?” He finally managed to cough out, catching the bartender’s attention making him glance over his shoulder.
Trance shook her head gently. “I…Don’t know if you can,” she breathed solemnly, “but it was fun,” she added happily, turning away.
“Can I at least know your real name?” asked Michael; raising his voice slightly stopping her in mid movement.
She hovered, motionless for what seemed to both of them much longer then it truly was before she turned around, lightning fast and grabbed the back of Michaels head, pulling him to her. “No,” she whispered in his ear, stroking his hair soothingly, “you can’t.” She kissed his cheek and quickly rushed around the bar to the back exit.
“I hate to say I told you so, kid,” stated the Barman dryly, turning to Michael as he slumped back down onto his stool, “but I don’t think it’d help too much if I did.”
Michael sat silently for some time staring at the polished black bar blankly while the Bartender continued to buff a glass casually.
“Women…” said the Tender flatly at last, “who really understands them?” he turned his back and placed the glass gingerly upon a shelf next to several other similar ones, “but I suppose that’s what makes them so provocative; the mys-” he turned back around and found nothing but an empty stool “-tery,” he finished sombrely to himself before going back to attending to another glass.
Michael pushed open the back exit of the bar harshly out into a grimy alleyway with only a dull glow from the main street filtering down this far. He held out little hope that Trance would still be around but proceeded out to look around none the less. Pacing up and down the damp alley only a few metres away from the door he found nothing but overflowing skip bins and the rats therein. He shook his head sadly to himself and was about to head for the reassuring light of the main street when there was a sudden crash from far into the darkness. He turned and looked cautiously into the gloom, straining his neck slightly to try and get any sort of glimpse to what was down there. It was too big to be a rat or even a cat, he conceded, stepping quietly forward and pausing before taking another step curiously. Without thinking he edged closer until he was well out of reach of the streetlight and as his eyes began to grow accustomed to the dark where a personified outline grew apparent against the haze. It was hunched to the ground, moving only slightly in short, sharp jerks and a sickly snorting, grunting sound was apparent. Michael slowly leaned closer, unsure what on earth this individual could be doing until a second figure gradually became solid, slumped against the ground in front of the first completely motionless. Michael gasped, starting back as a sudden realisation of what could be happening hit him. Backing off quickly he wrestled with his own mind as to the possibility of what he had just seen to be true. As he did the first figure, now alerted to his presence, began to rise and turn towards him with slow, steady movements until it was full height when it gradually stepped into a dull pool of light filtering down from the bright moon. His hair although short was still greasy and covered in grime with his face pale; almost ghost white bar the still fresh smearing of blood around his mouth which gathered on his chin and dripped down onto a once white shirt which its self had spattering of blood across it as though it had been squirted across. Michael tried to think of words as he backed away, the cannibalistic individual following him intently. He thought about turning and running but feared if he were then he would be struck down from behind. Finally the man raised his arms, his hands in talon like positions, and opened his mouth, growling, to reveal bloodstained teeth and two large fangs at either corner of his mouth and Michael realised that this was no cannibal but what it really was, he thought, was something much worse and not to mention impossible. He backed off again, faster this time, as the creature moved towards him now with much more purpose, its eyes dilating more then it should ever be possible and an off white substance shoot through his iris illuminating every blood vessel like spider legs lying across his eye. As the creature was about to pounce Michael turned to run but was caught by a side on tackle, forcing him into the wall.
“What the hell are you doing here!?” screamed Trance, pressing him into the wall as she quickly moved off towards the creature which was coming around for another attack. It leaped at her but she kicked it harshly in the gut before grabbing it by the throat and throwing it into the side of a dumpster, leaving a large dent in its metal side. She approached the still body on the ground and looked it over, slowly reaching into her jacket and withdrawing a long ornate dagger which, even in the darkness, seemed to glint as though the pure sun were shining on its blade. She raised it high and was about to plunge it towards the creatures chest when it suddenly jumped up, punching her backwards down the alley before turning back to Michael who pushed himself against the wall trying to find a way out but finding none. The creature closed and raised its arms again while brandishing its teeth about to sink them into his neck when the glinting blade was heaved through its chest from behind covering Michael in its gushing blood as the blade was quickly withdrawn and the creature left to fall lifelessly to the ground. Behind it was not Trance as Michael had expected but a finely dressed man who would have been generally considered of high class setting aside the fact that he had just impaled someone.
“State friend!” the man growled at Michael, flicking the blade to within an inch of his face.
“Friend, friend!” Michael shouted distraughtly trying to pull back as far against the wall as he could. “I swear to god I’d rather be your friend then anything else at this point,” he added gazing terrified at the ornate short sword, still dripping blood from its tip.
Trace stepped up, staggering slightly, behind the man and placed a hand softly on his shoulder. “Diego…It’s alright, he tells the truth.”
Diego relaxed his arm but kept the sword pointed oppressively at Michael. “You know this…Human?”
Trance looked to the blood smeared Michael cowering on the ground and hesitantly nodded shallowly. “Yes…I do.”
Diego threw down the sword to his side, narrowly missing both Michaels face and his own leg. “You have been warned! Just because of your position doesn’t mean you can blatantly defy our ways!” He breathed for a second and composed himself, lowering his voice. “How much does he know?” he raised the blade slightly again almost as though he were poised to use it at a moments notice if he needed to.
“Nothing,” stated Trance firmly, “only what has transpired this night,” she added, beginning to realise that after this he actually knew a fair amount too much.
Diego raised the sword towards Michael but then quickly lowered it again and turned back to Trance, “I sense you feel for this one,” he stepped towards her and placed a hand on her face gently “they must not know.” He removed his hand and turned sharply, walking silently out of sight, leaving Trance stood solemnly by herself.
“They must not know,” Trance repeated after a few more moments of silence, “it is for our best.” She took a deep breath in and turned to look down at Michael, slowly crouching down to him. “Close your eyes, my love,” she stroked his bloodied hair soothingly and looked deeply into his eyes, “please.” Without thinking he complied, letting his eyelids fall softly shut. For a while there was nothing and then the tender press of Trances lips on his. Almost without him noticing she pulled away and he opened his eyes again but found nothing but the dank alley and the filthy cannibalistic creature fallen lifelessly next to him. He quickly got to his feet and looked up and down the alley but found only the chilly night beginning to bite at his senses. He looked down at the body again and then at his blood stained clothes realising that they had left him alive for one good reason and for that very reason he feared it better if he had indeed perished as he believed he would.